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Words by: Dan Trent
"Mid-size crossovers are the dominant car type of our times, and the market offers a bewildering range of choice. Thanks to its bold styling this Niro stands out from both its predecessor and immediate rivals, reflecting Kia’s growing confidence and status. It also offers three stages of electrification from full hybrid to plug-in hybrid and, of course, fully electric depending on your budget, circumstances and the kind of driving you do. This recognises we’re all at different stages on our journeys to electrification, so credit to Kia for offering that choice all in the same vehicle. Saying that, the full electric version will likely attract the most attention, and builds successfully on the very solid reputation for value, range and usability established by the previous generation e-Niro."
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Running costs for a Kia Niro
The Niro slots in between the XCeed and Sportage, while the electric version bridges the gap from Soul to EV6. The full hybrid (or HEV to use the jargon) is probably best for private buyers wanting minimum fuss but decent efficiency, given you don’t need off-street parking and a home charging point. Think diesel efficiency but with cleaner, more refined petrol-electric power and you’re about there, this model also the most affordable of the three. If you can charge at home but need flexibility to travel further when required the plug-in hybrid (PHEV) is both fuel and tax efficient while the fully electric version (BEV) offsets its higher purchase price with the potential for real day-to-day savings if you’re smart about how and when you charge it. If you’re lucky enough to work somewhere offering a car salary sacrifice to incentivise electric car take-up you could make further savings here, too.
Reliability of a Kia Niro
The Niro is an all-new car so it’s too early to call it on specific reliability of this model, though Kia has a good reputation for building dependable cars and backs this up with its signature seven-year warranty. This remains a stand-out offer in the industry and means for the duration of most finance or lease terms you’ll have cover in place, with balance remaining to carry over to the second owner as well. This makes Kias a great buy for both new and used customers alike.
Safety for a Kia Niro
Good news? The Niro features a ton of the latest safety tech and driver aids. Bad news? Not all the systems appear on all trim levels and trying to figure out what’s included and what isn’t requires forensic analysis of the price list. The important stuff like emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection is standard on all models, while convenience aids like a reversing camera and sensors are also included. Blind spot warnings only come on the mid-level trim, likewise the Highway Driver Assist system to keep you in lane and a fixed distance from the vehicle in front on the motorway. The top grade gets automatic parking you can operate from outside the car and will also brake automatically if you are about to back into an unseen obstacle while at the wheel. Finally, EV models of this grade also get a more sophisticated version of the Highway Driver Assist and emergency braking.
How comfortable is the Kia Niro
Visibility is an underrated factor in how comfortable and relaxed you feel at the wheel so credit to the Niro for the low bonnet line, slim pillars and better than average over the shoulder view that help take the stress out of busy driving situations. The driver and front seat passenger are both well catered for in space terms, while their slimline seats help open up the interior and make the back feel less claustrophobic. The wheelbase is actually longer than the bigger Sportage as well, which helps free up room for rear seat passengers, though it’s worth noting the EV version has considerably less leg- and headroom because of where the battery is located. It does, however, get the biggest boot of the three variants and a useful front stowage compartment under the ‘bonnet’ sufficient for stashing your charging cables so they don’t get lost in the clutter of the main luggage area. Of the three the plug-in hybrid has the smallest boot, again due to the battery location. All the vehicles we drove had the biggest of the wheel options, which mean you feel the lumps and bumps at town speeds. Generally, though, the Niro rides better than many of its rivals, Kia wisely favouring comfort over perceived sportiness, while excellent refinement means relaxing cruising, especially under electric power in the plug-in hybrid and EV versions.
Features of the Kia Niro
Kia’s logical ‘2’, ‘3’ and ‘4’ trim levels are easy to understand, only the latter getting the distinctive two-tone bodywork you see here in the pictures. This is a shame, given it looks really distinctive and sets the Niro apart from the crossover crowd. You also need to go for this top grade to get the best of the tech, such as the paired digital instrument cluster and large centre screen. The latter has crisp graphics, logical menus and loads of functionality but, with nowhere to rest your hand when operating it, can be tricky to use on the move. We like the neat switchable ‘buttons’ below, though, which pair touch controls with physical knobs and can alternate between infotainment and heating controls. The top grade also gets on-message vegan ‘leather’ upholstery, a premium sound system, a power tailgate and more. At the other end of the scale the basic trim level gets only a basic digital display in the instrument cluster and a smaller centre screen, various combinations of this and the bigger unit available depending on whether you choose a hybrid or EV version. If that all sounds a bit complicated … it is. Our advice? If you can stretch to it go for the ‘4’, safe in the knowledge all the good stuff is included.
Power for a Kia Niro
Power and performance increases as you progress from the hybrid, into the plug-in hybrid and then to the full electric Niro EV. We drove them in order and the hybrid does a solid job of maximising time on electric power, even if it can’t cover meaningful distances without the petrol engine firing up and it’s not exactly fast. The plug-in feels much more electrified and can operate effectively as an EV for up to 40 miles, though it’s worth noting you lose a chunk of this range by going for the bigger 18-inch wheels. Both have some clever features like automatically switching to electric power for ‘green zones’ the car can identify itself or you can create yourself. The electric Niro feels punchier still, accelerating briskly and silently. There are various regeneration modes via the paddles on the steering wheel too, of which we liked the automatic ‘i-Pedal’ best, on the basis you can slow to a halt just by lifting off the accelerator. Owners of the previous e-Niro consistently praised the car’s efficiency and ability to maximise the available range, something Kia has clearly carried over to this new one as well. Based on our drive the claimed 285-mile range looks totally achievable and more than enough for most journeys, explaining Kia’s expectation that over half the Niros it sells will be the electric model. Put it this way, it would certainly be at or near the top of our EV shopping list if we were considering making the switch.
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